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Scientists Work to Make Prescription Painkillers “Unabusable”

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Scientists are working to make prescription painkillers and other commonly misused drugs “unabusable” by reformulating them, according to Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Pharmaceutical companies have an important role to play in fighting prescription drug abuse, by reformulating commonly abused drugs, she said at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando, Florida.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, released a new version of the drug two years ago that is resistant to crushing and cutting, common ways in which the drug was tampered with to enhance its effect. It is now much more difficult to prepare for snorting or injecting, a company spokeswoman told the Orlando Sentinel.

Acura Pharmaceuticals has developed two methods to prevent tampering with pills, according to CEO Bob Jones. The company has incorporated a substance in pills that turns them into a gel when someone tries to dissolve the drug to inject, so that it will not go through a needle.

The company also has formulated pills so that they create intense nasal irritation when they are crushed and snorted. This formulation is incorporated into the drug Oxecta, an immediate-release oxycodone product, the article notes. Acura plans to use the formulation in other painkillers, Jones said.

Acura has developed technology that limits how much of the key ingredient in methamphetamine a person can extract from the nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine. The technology, which is not yet commercially available, cuts the yield in half.

Drug companies also are creating pills with the consistency of gummy bears, which are too soft to crush. Some drugs in development won’t work unless they come into contact with the stomach’s digestive enzymes, making them useless if they are snorted or injected.

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